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Superstore - Grand Re-Opening - Review: "Not the Head of Marketing, the Comedian"



If I'm being honest, I watch a hundred times more comedies than I do serious or prestige TV. Indeed, my viewing habits may hamper my abilities to have conversations with other people about popular culture, but it's given me the gift of recognizing true comedy and comedic hyperbole. So trust me when I say that I'm only being a little bit hyperbolic when I say that Superstore is one of the best comedies on air right now, and the season premiere has definitely proved that.

"Grand Re-Opening" begins with the Superstore employees back at work following two months of unemployment after last season's store-wrecking tornado.

During the season two finale “Tornado”, Glenn (Mark McKinney) prayed to all the deities he could think of to stop the destruction. While Glenn is the comedy’s obvious caricature of a naive White Conservative, his ideology turns upside down when the tornado stops only after he prays to Allah.

"Grand Re-Opening"'s cold open features Glenn welcoming his employees back to the newly-reconstructed Cloud Nine. After the welcome, he immediately into a confused, unsure discussion of his new religious revelation. Glenn postulates whether Jesus and Allah are the same god, or if they're different gods with different responsibilities. The religious confusion is interesting on its own, but what makes it truly funny is the constant setting changes as Glenn tries to make his religious semi-sermon to his employees. Movement of construction workers drives the group from the front of the store, falling hazards drive them the break room, and jackhammer noises push them away from the store parking lot, onto a field twenty-three minutes away from the store, where Glenn finally finishes his speech. The sequence of setting switches is a great way to make sure that the audience doesn't tune out for the speech, and the shot of the employees annoyedly walking back to the store is perfectly countered by the cheery Superstore theme song.

Back at Cloud Nine, the employees prepare for the store's re-opening and catch up with each other. Jonah (Ben Feldman) admits that his home had gotten destroyed, and that he's now living in a FEMA trailer. The conversation leads to one of my favorite lines of the night, with Mateo (Nico Santos), asking Jonah "So, in a way, you're officially trailer trash now?".

Jonah admits that he doesn't like his current living situation, and Cheyenne (Nichole Bloom) says that Garrett (Colton Dunn) has room in his apartment. However, as Garrett rolls by, he makes excuses to as why Jonah can't stay.

After that, Superstore transitions elsewhere. One of my favorite things about the show is how it sandwiches funny yet generally plot-insignificant scenes in between the real action. After Jonah's conversation with Mateo, Cheyenne, and Garrett comes a scene where Sandra (Kaliko Kauahi) crouches down on the ground to stock a bottom shelf. As she pulls away from the shelf, a heavy-looking kitchen set drops down, narrowly missing her head. The camera pans up to reveal that Carol (Irene White) to be sitting on the top of the shelves. She had dropped the set, trying to kill Sandra in revenge for Sandra closing the door on her during the Season 2 finale. It's super dark (yet still funny) territory, but the episode doesn't linger there for long.

Instead, the focus moves towards Amy (America Ferrera) and Jonah, who are restocking the shelves and talking for the first time since their kiss during the Season 2 finale. Unable to bear the awkwardness, they pull passerby Marcus (Jon Barinholtz) into the conversation. Marcus's inclusion makes the scene more funny than awkward. He's portrayed as someone so obviously clueless that it's almost endearing, the way he almost immediately oversteps his bounds and says, "Hey listen, I've been thinking, we should kick Mateo out of the friend group" (a friend group that he obviously is not in).

Meanwhile, Glenn talks to Jeff (Michael Bunin) on the phone and takes that chance to tell him about his religious revelation. However, Jeff cuts him off and turns the conversation back to the store. Glenn confirms that he has everything they need for the store opening, and Jeff says that he'll swing by the store that afternoon.

...and that is where the episode's plot gets kick-started. In an email, Jeff had told Glenn to get all the employees back to work "Before the grand opening on the 28th" (which is a fun nod to the fact that the episode premiered on September 28), which Glenn had interpreted as "bring all the employees back on the 28th", while Jeff had meant it as "The grand opening is on the 28th". This means that the employees have to get a week's worth of store organization done in a few hours. In a funny and ironic scene, Garrett yells at his fellow employees and motivates them by saying "I don't think you can do it!".

Meanwhile, Amy tells the employees to stock the shelves as fast as they can, with no regard to quality. Dina (Lauren Ash) calls a costume shop and arranges for the store to rent Minions costumes.

As Dina is on a call with the costume shop, Howie Mandel walks in. He is meant to appear for the store's opening, but Dina doesn't know who he is and immediately puts him toe work.

Elsewhere, Glenn criticizes employee Earl (Will McLaughlin) for stocking the shelves poorly and tells him to take stuff down and redo his stocking. Amy comes along and distracts Glenn from noticing the poor shelf-stocking by telling him that he has to write a speech for the store's opening ceremony. Glenn panics and leaves, and Amy tells Earl to stop taking the items down.

Meanwhile, Sandra, Cheyenne, and Mateo are restocking shelves elsewhere in the store. Mateo, having found out that Jeff is coming the store, laments the voicemail that he sent Jeff in the Season 2 finale when he thought he was going to die. Mateo wonders if Jeff could even hear the voicemail over the loud, rushing winds, and Cheyenne quickly whisks him away to experiment and see if Jeff could hear.

But the funniest (and also saddest) part of the scene is the complete ignoring of Sandra, who laments that her boyfriend has been in a coma since an accident during the tornado, and how Cheyenne and Mateo completely ignore her. Oh, Sandra, all comedy shows need a butt-monkey, and you're one of the best.

While Cheyenne and Mateo experiment, some people are actually doing work in Cloud Nine. Amy recruits people to help her unload a truck, picking Myrtle (Linda Porter), an elderly employee, to help out instead of the able-bodied and completely kissable Jonah.

Marcus is picked by Amy too, and again, he completely (and hilariously) misreads the situation. He tells Jonah "better luck next time" and attempts to cheer him up by inviting him to live with him. Jonah is initially interested, until Marcus paints a picture of them being the two horsemen, bachelors destroying the town and "luring ladies back to the pad" together. Some of Marcus's language is confusing to Jonah, leading to a hilariously awkward exchange in which Jonah isn't sure if Marcus is proposing a threesome or not and Marcus looks flabbergasted.

Superstore then breaks to a montage of employees doing a horrible job of putting the store back together. These scenes are always hilarious, even if they don't involve attempted murder.

Meanwhile, Glenn struggles with his speech. Having found out from Garrett that people find his voice annoying, Glenn goes to Jonah and Amy. He asks them why they never told him about his voice, and Amy says that she thought he always knew. Dina comes along and says that Glenn's voice has always been preposterous.

While it has never personally bothered me, I know people who were definitely annoyed by Glenn's voice, and I feel like Glenn's plot in this episode served to acknowledge their feelings while still nicely maintaining Glenn's characterization and the show's identity.

After Glenn leaves, Dina asks Amy and Jonah to go pick up minion costumes, listing a bunch of reasons why other employees can't do it. Most notably, Dina states that nobody knows where Brett is. The usually stoic Dina displays a tinge of worry in her voice. I liked seeing that tinge of vulnerability, and Lauren Ash played that very well, being returning to her cold and domineering persona.

Jonah and Amy head out to pick up the minion costumes. The car ride scene leads to one of my favorite exchanges in the episode. Jonah asks Amy if she wants to listen to a podcast, expecting her to say no. When she says yes, Jonah says that his phone had gotten stolen from his trailer. It's funny, it's awkward, and it's a perfect romantic balance to the episode's lovesick Mateo plot.

Mateo and Cheyenne use a large fan to test the noise as Mateo tries to make a call, screaming "I love you" into a phone. However, when an attractive construction worker walks by, Mateo makes sure to show that he is single. It kind of dampens the believability of Mateo's feelings of Jeff, but the reaction is definitely true to Mateo's characterization.

Howie Mandel, in all this chaos, has found himself a Cloud Nine vest, nametag, and bag of carrots. As he eats his carrots, Dina approaches him and apologizes for not recognizing him. However, the moment is comically ruined as Dina interprets their completely professional interaction as flirting, while still telling him to go and help with the cash registers.

Outside the store, Glenn is still struggling with his speech. This time, he has Garrett help him with microphone settings to make his voice seem lower. The settings hilariously make him sound like one of those robotic, artificial voice criminals use to make calls that they don't want to trace to them. Garrett even gets Glenn to say "We have your son; a million dollars or he dies". The joke is slightly messed up, but I definitely found myself laughing.

Meanwhile, Jeff arrives with a laughably fake toupee that might have been the funniest thing of the night (well, the toupee itself ties with the footage of Glenn following Jeff around trying to touch the toupee.).

In the homestretch of the episode, every employee is rushing to get the store prepared for the re-opening. Dina counts back every second from six minutes. It's funny in a way I can only explain as the magic of Superstore. Employees do worse work than ever before. As someone who has worked in a store and has experience with card stocking, my favorite terrible work as the completely atrocious card stocking. It was so messy, and yet to beautiful. Meanwhile, Amy and Jonah have arrived back at the store (and after having a beautifully written and acted emotionally charged conversation about their relationship), they struggle to get the Minion costumes on, getting themselves into some interestingly compromising positions in the process. Glenn tries to stall. He talks about Pirates of the Caribbean and tells Howie Mandel to tell jokess. Howie Mandel does not tell jokes, apparently because the appearance was set up by his appearance agent, not his performance agent. Is that an actual thing?

Despite all the struggle, the store re-opening is a success. Cloud Nine does not look like a war zone when the customers come in, and Jonah and Amy are standing in front, in their minion costumes.

The minion costumes, while indicative of a trend that I wish would die already, provide us with a great scene. Instead of having to face each other, Jonah and Amy can speak and let all their words do their talking. Some cute banter about how Jonah really can't do minion talk gives way to Amy admitting that she and her husband are getting a divorce. Even without seeing their faces, any audience member can easily sense the emotion at play: Amy's vulnerability and Jonah's hope. It's a real testament to America Ferrera and Ben Feldman's acting that such a serious moment can play out in minion costumes without seeming too hokey.

By the end of the episode, everyone gets what they need. Mateo tries to talk to Jeff, but ends up blowing up and him instead after finding out that Jeff has gotten back together with his ex. Marcus's idea of taking a picture of a nicely stocked aisle and blowing up to fool consumers into thinking that the entire store is stocked nicely is realized, as an old lady bumps into a large facsimile of a pretty aisle. After hearing a conversation where Glenn tries to offer Jonah accommodation that sounds terrible, Garrett gives in and lets Jonah stay with him. It's a nice ending.

That's not to say that the episode was flawless. I felt that Howie Mandel was more of a stunt than anything else. He was underused, only having two scenes with Dina and one at the opening, where he didn't even tell a joke. The episode was good on its own, and it probably would have been better without him. The only Howie part that truly landed wasn't even about him; Jeff told Glenn that Howie Mandel would be coming to the store, but "not the head of marketing. The comedian. Same name". In my mind, I'm imagining the kind of hilarious hijinks that could have happened if Head of Marketing Howie came.

But despite this minor setback, "Grand Re-Opening" was pretty solid. The change in status quo sets a nice precedent for the rest of the season, and the jokes hit all the right notes. I was a bit worried that Superstore would have a bit of trouble finding its ground after destroying the titular superstore and having Amy and Jonah kiss while Amy was still married, but all those worries for naught. Superstore continues to be funny in the great way where it's fun, but not an idealized version of our world, and it's realistic, but without losing the sense of hopefulness that I feel belongs in every comedy.

What did you think of this week's Superstore? Where you "yay" or "nay" about the Howie Mandel guest appearance? Where do you think the Jonah/Amy relationship will go from here? Share you answers in the comments below!






 
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